An electroacoustic opera
Vocal line composed by David Hönigsberg and performed by Katherine Squire.
Acoustic percussion composed and performed by Gareth Dylan Smith.
Electronics & sampled instruments composed and performed by Douglas D. Grannell.
Recordings engineered and produced by Douglas D. Grannell.
Original artwork by Douglas D. Grannell.
Libretto by Nostradamus.
Text by Nostradamus
Lors se perdra la piscature barque,
Sera regie en
Quand le sepulchre du grand Romain trouué
Le iour apres sera esleu Pontife:
Du Senat gueres il ne sera prouué
[Empoisonne,][Empoisonné] son sang au sacré scyphe.
Par lvnivers sera faict vn monarque,
Quen paix & vie ne sera longuement:
Lors se perdra la piscature barque,
Sera regie en plus grand detriment.
La grand estoille par sept iours bruslera,
Nuee fera deux soleils apparoir:
Le gros mastin toute nuit hurlera,
Quand grand pontife changera de terroir.
Au fondement de la nouuelle secte,
Seront les os du grand Romain trouuez,
Sepulchre en marbre apparoistra couuerte,
Terre trembler en Auril, mal enfoüetz.
Par les deserts de lieu libre & farouche,
Viendra errer nepueu du grand Pontife:
Assommé à sept auecques lourde souche,
Par ceux quapres occuperont le Cyphe.
O vaste Rome ta ruyne sapproche,
Non de tes murs, de ton sang & substance
Laspre par lettres fera si horrible coche,
Fer pointu mis à tous iusques au manche.
Instructions and Notes for the Observer/Explorer on how to Undertake their very own Journey of Discovery.
by David Hönigsberg
The Vocal line of POPES is written in 7 Movements. 7 as a mystical number whose significance as a central element is not meant to be underestimated. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the Seven Deadly Sins et al, are a constant theme throughout History, and so too, these and other mythologies, are a theme in the ten short minutes of POPES. Further, it is vital to remember that earthly proportion is the mortal image of cosmological structure. (Nigel Pennick, Sacred Geometry, Turnstone, Wellingborough, 1980)
The tempi of these 7 movements are based upon an arithmetical calculation which resulted in the following series of values: Crotchet, or quarter note, equals: 39, 57, 73 ,97, 113, 137, 153 and in total there are 176 bars (measures) of notated vocal music. (Incidentally as grist for the numerologists mill and not to marginalize any deconstructivist analysis, there are precisely 11 pages of printed score.)
Each movement presents a fragment of text by Nostradamus in medieval French. In order to decipher the text, the observer/explorer will have to undertake this task as part of their Journey of Discovery. This is not Artistic Arrogance rather it is Intellectual Latitude. As above, so below. (Hermes Trismegistus)
The Texts are prophecies predicting the End of the World, i.e. the End of the World as known by Nostradamus. This necessitates the interpretation from a 21st century standpoint - the prophecy now concerns the End of the Catholic Church and Rome. (Was Nostradamus a Copernican?) The texts are presented as found fragments or newly created archaeological finds - reminiscent of Umberto Ecos story concerning the god Ajax. The discovery by a future civilization of a fragment of cardboard bearing the name Ajax and a powder that after much scientific investigation proves to be a whitening agent, leads them to the conclusion that we worshipped the God of Whiteness. In turn this leads to the complete (re-) interpretation of our civilization. (Though unconscious Copernicans we tend to drift towards a terra incognita of our own making). So too Nostradamus revisited in this century leads to a new interpretation of the relevance of the Church and its place in our (new) civilization, terra infirma. Suffice it to say that the three last Popes of Rome are described and their end predicted. No longer a bridge between the ethereal and the real, Rome sinks slowly into the Tiber.
John Cages (the significance of the name John has not been unintentional) idea of Indeterminacy, the redundancy of Opera as a valid art form, the commission from Yucca Tree, the question of artifice versus craft and the use of the electronic media have all been central to the creative process. It is possible, as we have proven, to work in complete isolation, deliberately unaware of an Other. We have climbed into and surpassed the Art totem, our Glass Beads have fallen on fertile ground. As pioneers, our exploration has produced this Leap of Faith. The Spirituality of the work and its process is without question, the result is emotionally and musically satisfying. Therefore it can safely be said that Serendipity plays a leading role in the creation of this piece. The final piece in the puzzle is the Observer/Explorer i.e. You.
...eat Thou honey, because it is good...so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul.